A determined mother assisted law enforcement in making the arrest of an elusive suspect accused of murdering her daughter.
In June 2016, Krystal Mitchell and her then-boyfriend Raymond McLeod went from Arizona to visit friends in San Diego. A friend found Mitchell brutally beaten and strangled to death in a bedroom of the apartment they were staying at, according to investigators.
McLeod, 37, was the prime suspect in the murder of the 20-year-old mother of two and a warrant for his arrest was issued, but he vanished.
The murder case went cold when law enforcement couldn’t track down McLeod – a former Marine.
Frustrated with the progress in solving the murder of her daughter, Josephine Wentzel took it upon herself to hunt down Krystal’s killer.
Wentzel – who worked in Guam as a former police detective – used her expertise to help authorities locate McLeod.
Wentzel – who has been raising her daughter’s two children for the past six years – enrolled in classes to learn how to use the internet and social media to track down people online, according to ABC News.
The grieving, yet determined mother credits her inner “mama bear” for having the passion and persistence to solve her daughter’s murder.
“It’s not about being a former detective,” Wentzel told “Good Morning America.” “It’s about being a mom. It’s that mama bear. It’s that mom determination that I gave birth to this child and, so help me God, I’m going to take care of this child until I die.”
Authorities believed McLeod fled to Mexico, but couldn’t locate him. Law enforcement said there were sightings of McLeod in Belize, Guatemala, and Mexico, but nothing led to his apprehension. He was on the U.S. Marshals’ list of the 15 most wanted fugitives.
Finally on Aug. 29, authorities arrested McLeod in El Salvador – roughly 3,000 miles away from the crime scene. He was reportedly teaching English to locals under an assumed name.
“He really laid low and didn’t pop his head up a whole lot. He obviously had some training in clandestine operations and things like that that I’m sure he referred to,” said Joseph O’Callaghan – chief deputy of the U.S. Marshals Service.
During a press conference on Friday, the U.S. Marshalls Office credited Wentzel for helping them track down McLeod. The U.S. Marshals Service proclaimed Wentzel as a “driving force” in the arrest of McLeod.
The San Diego County District Attorney’s Office issued a statement declaring that Wentzel “has been instrumental in helping authorities search for McLeod.”
“Wentzel has generated leads for law enforcement and helped spread word about the international manhunt on social media,” the statement added.
Wentzel told “GMA,” “It was years of hard work, and to be honest with you, I wasn’t sure. The most important thing is to get their faces out in public.”
Last week, McLeod appeared in court and pleaded not guilty to the murder charge. He was ordered to be held without bond.
Wentzel said, “This is one chapter closed. Now I have another chapter that I have to be involved in, and that’s the justice system. I told the prosecutors that I hope they do their due diligence; I’m there to help make sure the case goes through … and do whatever you can to make that happen because my family deserves that justice like that.”
Mom helps police find Phoenix fugitive accused of strangling her daughter to death